GB vs England, Ireland, etc.

I was looking at the leaderboard for the US Open here:
After each player’s name, they have their flag of national origin.
I noticed a lack of union jacks - instead, they identify British players as being English, Scottish, etc.
What governs when someone is British as opposed to - say - English?
Or did I just never notice before that athletes and such are never described as British?

In sports, it depends how the sport in question has decided to identify players.
In the Olympics, there’s a GB team (covering England, Scotland and Wales) and an Ireland team (covering both the republic and the north)

In football, there’s separate teams for England, Scotland, Wales, N Ireland and RoI. Place of birth and parentage both play a part in a person’s eligibility to play for a team.

In Rugby Union, there’s England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, with similar eligibility rules.

In the US Open - well, I’m no golf expert, but they’ve obviously decided to identify British players by their home nation (or perhaps to allow British players to choose how to identify themselves).

National and regional identity in Britain is a complicated matter! :slight_smile:

I should point out that technically, Scotland, Wales, England, and Ireland are all seperate nations, with bits of them united into a single country in the United Kingdom. Britain is also a nation, incorporating at least three other nations.

I’m not sure what you mean by “bits of them”, except for the case of Ireland (which has Northern Ireland as part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland as a seperate nation).

None of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is a “nation state” in the internationally accepted sense.

I thought the Great Britain Olympic team included Northern Ireland? I’m thinking of Mary Peters in 1972, for example.

In the Commonwealth games, England, Scotland, Wales and NI are represented separately. And in sports which are only played in Britain and a small number of other countries, often former parts of the Empire, players or teams usually represent their individual country rather than Britain.

In soccer, we have special dispensation to have four separate national teams because we invented the game, dammit. There are occasionally rumblings about having a unified Great Britain team, usually from other countries annoyed that Britain gets four entries into international competitions, but try getting that past the four Football Associations here.

Correct- I meant that while Ireland may be a single nation, it is under the sovereignty of two different states.

They are not nation states, but they are most definitely nations. They have their own distinct cultural identities, their own languages, their own flags, and each has a different degree of regional autonomy. Try asking the average SDP member whether or not Scotland is a nation.

Nation, state, country…none have absolute definitions. It’s the “you know it when you see it” definition, which falls at the British fence.

Actually, I think you might be right, in that Northern Irish citizens can choose who to represent. I think.

Besides the other explanations in the thread that do explain the differences between political divisions, I do notice that the sports world has started to split them apart more than before. Don’t know why; perhaps more pride, perhaps more universal awareness.

Maybe it’s an offshoot of Rugby Union. IRU has always recognized an English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish side, as well as the Lions who are (I think) chosen from all four.

Slight nitpick here, It’s the Union Flag not the Union Jack.
It becomes a Jack when flown from the Jackstaff of a ship

Not so fast, chowder - there is some doubt as to the origin of the term “Union Jack”:


I think the GB team’s full name is Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but for some reason still uses GB over UK.

Thanks all.
That clear things up (kinda).
How bout them Manxmen?

Of course, the BOA predates Irish independence, and was set up at a time when sensitivities over such terminology were not as acute. The Irish Olympic Council came into being in 1922, and if I remember correctly, allows N Irish-born people to represent Ireland, the result being that anyone born there can choose which team to identify with.

Good question. I suspect they’re included by the BOA for the Olympics. As for football, the Manx team isn’t eligible to play in Fifa tournaments.